Guinness delivery workers awarded €114,000 over unfair dismissal

WRC rules against subcontractor over alleged unauthorised and undocumented keg deliveries in Dublin

A group of Guinness lorry workers fired without notice four years ago over 'unscheduled and undocumented' keg deliveries to Dublin pubs have secured awards totalling over €114,000. Photograph: Frank Miller

A group of workers for a Guinness delivery subcontractor who were fired without notice four years ago over “unscheduled and undocumented” keg deliveries to Dublin pubs have secured awards totalling over €114,000.

They were among 15 drivers and assistants sacked en masse in the wake of a covert surveillance operation by Diageo security officers at a pub in Dublin’s northeast inner city between December 2018 and March 2019.

The brewery’s delivery subcontractor, Shannon Warehousing and Transport Ltd, trading as STL Logistics, accused the workers of gross misconduct over what it called “unscheduled and undocumented deliveries of Diageo product” to the pub – 31 kegs on 20 separate occasions.

At a hearing last year, barrister David Byrnes, for 11 of the workers, said: “There is no evidence showing or able to show that any product has gone missing, that any customer was short-changed, or that Diageo is out of pocket.”

READ MORE

The workers gave evidence at hearing last year that they would shuttle kegs between pubs on their routes as a customer service to publicans, who were in the practice of borrowing stock and returning replacement kegs.

After a series of investigation meetings and disciplinary hearings, the 11 workers were dismissed in July 2019 – and their appeals were turned down.

Mr Byrnes said his clients had been presented with “hearsay” claims with serious implications during the disciplinary process but no way to challenge them as they had not been told that other crews had been unable to recall specifics.

The company’s position was that after obtaining information from the 70 delivery customers it was of the view that “no other pub” was involved in swap arrangements.

HR expert Brendan McCarthy of Stratis Consulting, for STL Logistics, argued that the answers given by the delivery crews “lacked any credibility whatsoever” and that trust was “irretrievably broken”, leaving summary dismissal for gross misconduct the “appropriate sanction”.

Delivering parallel rulings in the 11 cases, which were published on Friday by the WRC, adjudicating officer Andrew Heavey rejected that view. Citing “the reality surrounding swaps”, he was of the view in each case that their actions were not gross misconduct.

“None of these practices were included in the respondent’s disciplinary procedures and are still not included more than three years after the dismissal,” Mr Heavey said. He also noted the petition letter signed by other staff “confirming that swaps take place and have done for many years”.

In each case Mr Heavey said he preferred the evidence of the worker.

.

He upheld complaints by workers Ben Murphy, Mark Bissett, Anthony O’Reilly, Sean F Kelly, Stanislav Gradinaru, Darren Fallon, Krysztof Franczak, John Gray, Lukasz Tymicki, William Dorney and Stephen Nelson against the firm.

Having regard for the degree of financial loss sustained, he awarded the 11 workers who attended the hearings sums of between €2,320 and €21,000 each as redress under the Unfair Dismissals Act 1977.